A Beginner’s Guide to Free Will

Article by Dr. John Piper (original source here)

Before the fall of Adam, man was sinless and able not to sin. For God “saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). But he was also able to sin. For God had said, “In the day that you eat of it [the tree] you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

As soon as Adam fell into sin, human nature was profoundly altered. Now man was not able not to sin. In the fall, human nature lost its freedom not to sin.

Why is man not able not to sin? Because on this side of the fall “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6), and “the mind of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8, my translation). Or, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

Notice the word cannot twice in Romans 8:7–8, and the words “is not able” in 1 Corinthians 2:14. This is the nature of all human beings when we are born — what Paul calls the “natural person,” and what Jesus calls “born of the flesh.”

Too Rebellious to Submit to God

This means, Paul says, that in this condition we “cannot please God,” or, to put it another way, “we are not able not to sin.” The basic reason is that the natural person prefers his own autonomy and his own glory above the sovereignty and glory of God. This is what Paul means when he says, “The mind of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit . . . ”

Glad submission to God’s authority, and to God’s superior value and beauty, is something we are not able to do. This is not because we are kept from doing what we prefer to do. It is because we prefer our own authority, and treasure our own value, above God’s. We cannot prefer God as supremely valuable while preferring ourselves supremely.

The reason for this idolatrous preference is that we are morally blind to the glory of Christ, so that we cannot treasure his glory as superior to our own. Satan is committed to confirming us in this blinding preference. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). So when the natural person looks at the glory of God, whether in nature or in the gospel, he does not see supreme beauty and worth.

To Believe We Must See Beauty

This is the basic reason that the natural person cannot believe in Christ. Believing is not just affirming the truth of Jesus, but is also seeing the beauty and worth of Jesus, in such a way that we receive him as our supreme treasure. The way Jesus expressed this was to say, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). There is no saving relationship with Jesus where faith does not consist in treasuring Jesus above your dearest earthly treasures.

Where this wakening to the supreme glory and value of Jesus (called “new birth”) has not happened, the fallen human heart cannot believe in Jesus. That’s why Jesus said to those who opposed him, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44). In other words, you cannot believe in Jesus while you treasure human glory over his. For believing is just the opposite. Believing in Jesus means receiving him as supremely glorious and valuable (John 1:12). Continue reading

Preaching: The Sacred Task

Text: Hebrews 4:12,13; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

God requires much of a preacher. That’s because a Church’s worship never rises above the view of God proclaimed from the pulpit. A high view of God, proclaiming the high majesty, holiness and Sovereignty of God leads to high worship of God. A weak and low view of God leads to weak and low worship of God. There is much at stake in all this…

The Five Points

Roger R. Nicole

(original source here)

Editor’s note: The 2015-16 academic year began a series of observances at Reformed Theological Seminary in commemoration of its jubilee. We would be remiss if we failed also to note that 2015 is the centennial of the birth of Roger Nicole, who joined the faculty at RTS Orlando in 1989 and served faithfully for two decades. This essay originates as an address delivered at the 1974 Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology and was subsequently published in Tenth: A Journal of Tenth Presbyterian Church.

The five points of Calvinism come to us today in a form that is quite traditional: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints. But we are not to think that this is the only form the doctrines of grace can take or that the phrases themselves are unalterable.

The advantage of this particular formulation is that when you take the first letter of each of those points and read it from top to bottom you find the word “tulip,” and so have an acrostic. The tulip is a beautiful flower marvelously cultivated in the Netherlands, and since there are many Calvinists in the Netherlands and many flower-loving people, it seems to be a delightful arrangement to organize these doctrines in terms of the letters of this word. However, I would like to consider the nature of the points and suggest certain re-wordings which, in my judgment, may prevent misunderstandings.

Pervasive Evil
The first point is “total depravity.” The purpose of this point is to emphasize that no expectation can be entertained from man with respect to ability to please God or even to come to him in salvation unless God moves him to it. Thus, the purpose is to turn away the eyes from man in his action and ability and instead direct the eyes to God and his sovereign action. The advantage of expressing this truth in this way is that we emphasize the fundamental and pervasive character of the evil in man.

However, the terms that are used are somewhat misleading. I find that invariably, after having said “total depravity,” the staunchest Calvinists find it important to qualify precisely what they mean. They add, “But we don’t mean to say by this that man is quite as bad as he could be.” Practically everybody who says “total depravity” or “total inability” has to qualify this at once. Obviously, people who seek to know what Calvinism is ought to make it their business, not only to go by certain titles, but also to examine what is being said under those titles. But since those words are used repeatedly we cannot blame them too much for having taken them at face value. Nor can we blame them when, thinking that somehow Calvinists believe that every man is as evil as he can be, and finding situations where men seem praiseworthy, these people point to certain virtues and say, “How can you hold to your Calvinism in the presence of this?” Perhaps it would be wiser to use another form of language that would be calculated to emphasize the indispensable character of this divine grace and that would not need so quickly to have a qualification.

May I suggest that what the Calvinist wishes to say when he speaks of total depravity is that evil is at the very heart and root of man. It is at the very foundation, at the deepest level of human life. This evil does not corrupt merely one or two particular avenues of the life of man but is pervasive in that it spreads into all aspects of the life of man. It darkens his mind, corrupts his feelings, warps his will, moves his affections in wrong directions, blinds his conscience, burdens his subconscious, and afflicts his body. There is hardly any way in which man is called upon to express himself in which, in some way, the damaging character of evil does not manifest itself. Evil is like a root cancer that extends in all directions within the organism to cause its dastardly effects.

How shall we express this? Well, I am not too happy about my substitutions, but I would like to suggest that the term be “radical depravity” or “pervasive depravity” or, if you want to have a somewhat longer approach, to say “radical and pervasive depravity.” This is a little less sweeping than “total” and, in that sense, a little closer to what we really want to assert.

Divine Initiative
The second point is “unconditional election.” The emphasis here is upon the fact that it is God who takes the initiative. There is no previous merit or condition in the creature, either present or foreseen, which determines the divine choice. This is the key to what is in view. The disadvantage to this formulation is twofold. In the first place, it is not sufficiently comprehensive, for it suggests that the only thing that God does is to elect people to be saved and that, therefore, there is no relationship of God to those who are lost. But election involves not only the taking of some to be saved; it also involves the bypassing of the remainder of mankind and the just reprobation of them in view of their sins. So just to talk of election is not enough. We should also recognize preterition, the bypassing of those who are not to be saved. Moreover, the term “unconditional” might be misconstrued to suggest that God has no interest in the condition of those whom he chooses to make his redeemed people. It suggests that God is not concerned about what we are, what we become, and how we relate ourselves to his will. If the point is that God does not ground his choice in the fact that those who are elected are better or worse than others, it is correct. But if it suggests that God does not care about the condition of those whom he has chosen to save, it is wholly incorrect. For the Scripture makes it very specific that we are elected “unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

What we need to recognize here is that the sovereign initiative in salvation is with God. It is not with man. It is not by virtue of something that God has foreseen in a man – some preexisting condition which is the source or root of the elective purpose of God – that God saves him. God in his own sovereign wisdom chooses, for reasons that are sufficient unto himself, those who shall be saved. We may, therefore, much better speak of “sovereign election” or the “preterition of God.”

Definite Atonement
Then comes the third point, which is sometimes called “limited atonement.” This, I think, is a complete misnomer. The other points I can live with, but “limited atonement” I cannot live with, for this is a total misrepresentation of what we mean to say.

The purpose of using this expression is to say that the atonement is not universal (in the sense of Christ having died for every member of the race in the same sense in which he died for those who will be redeemed). Therefore, the purpose of the atonement is restricted to the elect and is not spread to the universality of mankind.

Some limit it in breadth; that is, they say the Lord Jesus Christ died for the redeemed and that he sees to it that the redeemed are therefore saved. For them there is a certain group of mankind, a particular group, which is the special object of the redemptive love and substitutionary work of Jesus Christ and toward which Christ sees to it that his work is effective. While the remainder of mankind may gain some benefits from the work of Christ, they are, however, not encompassed in the same way in his design as were those whom the Father gave him. This is one way of limiting it.

Other people say that Christ died for everybody in the same way, but they must acknowledge that some of the people for whom Christ died are at the end lost. So for these the death of Christ does not, in fact, ensure the salvation of those for whom he died. The effect is to limit the atonement in depth. The atonement is ineffective. It does not secure the salvation of the people for whom it is intended. For these, the will of God and the redemptive love of Jesus Christ are frustrated by the resistance and wicked will of men who resist him and do not accept his grace. In addition, salvation really consists of the work of Christ, plus the acceptance or non-resistance of some ingredient of one kind or another that some people add, and it is this ingredient which really constitutes the difference between being saved and being lost. No one who says that at the end there will be some people saved and other people lost can really in honesty speak of an unlimited atonement.

For these reasons I, for one, am not happy to go under the banner of a limited atonement, as though Calvinists and myself were ones who wickedly emasculate and mutilate the great scope and beauty of the love and redemption of Jesus Christ. For it is not really a question of limits. It is a question of purpose. How should we phrase it therefore?

We ought rather to talk about “definite atonement.” We ought to say that there was a definite purpose of Christ in offering himself. The substitution was not a blanket substitution. It was a substitution that was oriented specifically to the purpose for which he came into this world, namely, to save and redeem those whom the Father has given him. Another term that is appropriate, although perhaps it is less precise than “definite atonement,” is “particular redemption.” For, the redemption of Christ is a particular one which accomplished what it purposed. The only alternative is that Christ redeemed no one in particular.

If we change the language in this way I think we put ourselves away from being the ones who seem to be in the business of restricting the scope of the love of Christ. If I say that my position is that of limited atonement, my opponent will say, “You believe in limited atonement, but I believe in unlimited atonement.” He seems to be the one who exalts the grace of God. But see what happens when we use my words. I say, “I believe in a definite atonement.” What can my opponent say? “1 believe in an indefinite atonement”? If I use the old language, I have no opportunity to do anything except protest. If I use the new language, I do not put myself at a psychological disadvantage from the start. Incidentally, the term “definite atonement” you will find in writers such as John Owen and William Cunningham of Scotland. So let us abandon the expression “limited atonement,” which disfigures the Calvinistic doctrine of grace in the work of Christ.

Effectual Grace
The fourth point is “irresistible grace.” The emphasis here is upon the fact that God accomplishes his designs, so that the saving grace of God cannot be resisted unto perdition. But a misunderstanding may also arise from this phrase; for it may suggest that a man may resist to the very end and that God will nevertheless press him willy-nilly, kicking and screaming, into the Kingdom. This is not the case. The grace of God does not function against our wills but is rather a grace which overcomes the resistance of our wills. God the Holy Spirit is able to accomplish this.

You say, “How can God the Holy Spirit accomplish this without violating free will and making us into puppets?” I don’t know how he can do it but that is what he does. I am not concerned about God’s modes of operation, and I am quite ready to see that he may well have a good number that I do not know about and that I am not able to explore. What I do know is that when there is resistance God comes in with his mighty grace and subdues that resistance. He makes no one come against his will, but he makes them willing to come. He does not do violence to the will of the creature, but he gently subdues and overcomes human resistance so men will gladly respond to him and come in repentance and faith. We ought not to give the impression that somehow God forces himself upon his creatures so that the gospel is crammed down their throats, as it were. In the case of adults (those who have reached the age of accountability) it is always in keeping with the willingness of the individual that the response to grace comes forth. This is surely apparent in the case of the Apostle Paul, for whom God had perhaps made what might be called the maximum effort to bring him in. He resisted, but God overcame his resistance. The result is that Paul was brought willingly and happily into the fold of the grace of God.

What we mean here is not “irresistible”—it gives the impression that man continues to resist—but “effectual.” That is, the grace of God actually accomplishes what he intends it to accomplish.

Perseverance with His Saints
The last point is called “the perseverance of the saints,” and the emphasis is upon the truth that those who have been won by the grace of God will not lose out but will be preserved by God’s grace to ultimate salvation. It means that it is not possible for one who is truly regenerate so to fall out of the reach of divine grace as to lose salvation altogether and finally be lost.

The advantage of this formulation is that there is, indeed, a human activity in this process. The saints are active. They are not just passive. In a true sense they are called upon to persevere. But there is a devastating weakness in this formulation in that it suggests that the key to this perseverance is the activity of the saints. It suggests that they persevere because they are strong, that they are finally saved because they show that kind of stability and consistency which prevents them from turning back into their original wickedness. This is never the case. The key to perseverance is the preservation by God of his saints, that is, the stability of his purpose and the fixity of his design. What is to be in view here is not so much the perseverance of those who are saved but the perseverance of God with the sinners whom he has gloriously transformed and whom he assists to the end. We ought to talk about “God’s perseverance with his saints.” That is the thing that we need to emphasize.

A New Acrostic?
We now need to review our terms—“radical depravity,” “sovereign election and preterition,” “definite atonement,” “effectual grace,” and “the perseverance of God with his saints.” Those are the terms I suggested. Unfortunately, the terms do not provide acrostics in English, French, German, Latin, or any other language I know of. So we have lost our “tulip,” that beautiful mnemonic device to remember these five points in a simple manner. Well, I think it may be worthwhile to lose it, if those other terms mislead people as to what it is we actually hold. We certainly don’t want to sell our birthright, which is the truth, for a mess of pottage, which is an acrostic. If that is what has to be done, let it be done.

On the other hand, I do not want to finish altogether on this note. So I would like to suggest to you that there is a way in which we ought to unite the five points; for in a very special sense we ought to recognize that the five points of Calvinism are, in reality, not five separate doctrines that we assert almost as disjointed elements, but rather the articulation of one point which is the grace of God. Total depravity we may call “indispensable grace.” It is the truth that without God’s grace we can do nothing because we are so evil. Election, called in Scripture the election of grace, may well be called “differentiating grace” or “sovereign grace.” Definite atonement is “providing grace,” for it refers to that grace by which God has established a basis for salvation. The fourth point is “effectual” or “efficacious grace.” Perseverance of the saints may be called “indefectible grace,” grace that will never fail us. In this way we can see how the points simply formulate what Scripture presents to us concerning God’s grace.

If you want to, you can make an acrostic that will read “gospel.” The g would be “grace”; the o, total depravity, would be “obligatory grace”; the s would be “sovereign grace”; the p, corresponding to definite atonement, would be “provision-making grace”; the e is “effectual grace”; finally, the l would be “lasting grace.” I do not like this as well as I like my other terms, so I present it with some diffidence. But if you are hung up on an acrostic, use it. At any rate, get something that has more meaning than “tulip.”

Even better, let us go to the heart of the gospel and say, “Calvinism is the gospel,” and then spell it out. This is what the Reformed position was all about, after all. Sola gratia! By grace alone! That is what we are talking about. The five points of Calvinism merely conjoin to this. Moreover, we do not even have to go to the Reformation, we can go directly to the Scripture.

Here is a text: Jonah 2:9. It reads, “Salvation is of the Lord.” And, in the New Scofield Bible, which I will even venture to quote for once, there is a beautiful little note at that place which says, “The theme of the Scripture.” That is exactly it. Salvation is of the Lord! That is the theme of the Scripture, and the five points of Calvinism.

On When to Resign as a Pastor

Article: On Knowing When to Resign by D. A. Carson, research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and general editor of Themelios. (original source here)

Certain kinds of questions come my way by email fairly regularly—every few weeks, every couple of months. One of these regulars runs something like this: “How do I know when it is time to resign?” If this is being asked by a pastor who is still young, it is usually prompted by a difficult situation that he longs to flee.

Circumstances of that sort are so diverse that I won’t attempt to address them here. What I have in mind is the pastor who poses this question at the age of 55, or 60, or 65, or 70. This pastor is wondering when it is time to lay down the burden of local church ministry, and consider something else—itinerant ministry, perhaps, or teaching overseas for a while, or working with a mission agency, or half-time pastoral work, perhaps as someone else’s associate. Are there any biblical and theological principles that should shape our reflection on these matters?

(1) In one sense, this is the right question to ask. Here is not someone who has reached some long-awaited ideal retirement age and is looking for an excuse to withdraw from ministry in favor of buying an RV to spend the next couple of decades alternating between fishing lakes and visiting grandchildren. After all, there is no well-articulated theology of retirement in Scripture. Rather, this is a serious question from someone who has borne the heat of the day, and who, for various reasons, wonders if it is not only permitted but right to ask if it is time to move on.

(2) In recent years, I’ve been passing on what I’ve picked up from a few senior saints who have thought these things through. The most important lesson is this: Provided one does not succumb to cancer, Alzheimer’s, or any other seriously debilitating disease, the first thing we have to confront as we get older is declining energy levels. Moreover, by “declining energy levels” I am referring not only to the kind of declining physical reserves that demand more rest and fewer hours of labor each week, but also to declining emotional energy without which it is difficult to cope with a full panoply of pastoral pressures. When those energy levels begin to fall is hugely variable (at age 45? 65? 75?), as is also how fast they fall. But fall they will!

It follows that if one attempts at age 85 to do what one managed to accomplish at age 45, a lot of it will be done badly. Frustrations commonly follow: old-man crankiness, rising resentments against the younger generation, a tendency to look backward and become defensive, even an unwitting destruction of what one has spent a lifetime building up.

Three things follow:

As long as God provides stable energy levels, one should resist the glitter of common secular assumptions about retirement—e.g., that there is (or should be) a universal retirement age, that somehow your work entitles you to a retirement free from all service, that the end of life should be dominated by pleasurable pastimes emptied of self-sacrifice and service. This is not to argue there is no place for, say, time devoted to creative tasks of one sort or another; it is to argue that it is sub-Christian to imagine that our service across the decades entitles us to a carefree retirement.

Once energy levels start to decline (whenever that might be), then, assuming that neither senility nor some other chronic disease is taking its toll, the part of wisdom is to stop doing some things so that with one’s remaining energy one can tackle the remaining things with enthusiasm and gusto. I can think of two or three senior saints who have become wholly admirable models in this regard. In their late 60s, they slowly started to put aside one task after another, with the result that, now in their early 90s, they can still do the one or two remaining things exceptionally well. One of them, for instance, will still preach, but never more than once a day. And he won’t fly anywhere: travel to the place he is to preach is either by car (with someone driving him), or by train. But when he does preach, you can close your eyes and listen to a man thirty or forty years younger.

There is another element in such decisions that is partly subjective, partly temperamental, partly a reflection of one’s sense of call—and of the ways these various factors interact with one another. John Calvin died on May 27, 1564, at the age of 54. All his life he held himself to the most rigorous, punishing schedule. That stunning self-discipline, a reflection of his passion for the glory of God and for the promotion of the gospel, was used by God to make the man astonishingly productive.

On the other hand, all the biographies I have read of him speculate that if in his latter years he had slowed down a little, he might have lived a good deal longer—and had he lived another decade or two, still with stable health, he may well have produced a great deal more.

But who are we to tell John Calvin what he should have done? Human motives are usually mixed. On the one hand, there is something hauntingly exemplary about a person who wants to burn out for Christ, to waste no time, to serve others, “… fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run” (Kipling); on the other hand, there may be a wee touch of workaholism in such a stance, in which our very self-identity is tied to the number of hours we put in or the number of things we produce.

On the one hand, it might be a careful and thoughtful stewarding of our declining energies that makes a wise calculation about dropping certain responsibilities so as to maintain more important priorities; on the other hand, who is to deny that there may also be a touch of entitlement, or a cooling of youthful ardor, a dangerous love of mere ease? Each of us will have to give an answer to our own beloved Master, who knows us better than we do. It is probably not too much to suggest that if we are temperamentally drawn to one or the other of these extremes, we should be especially diligent to explore our motives most carefully.

(3) All things being equal (and of course, they never are), one should not leave one’s ministry until one or more of the following conditions is met:

One has to leave for moral reasons. Sadly, such failures are not restricted to young pastors. The older one gets, the more one should pray for grace to finish well.

Serious health issues mean that one can no longer discharge one’s pastoral duties fruitfully, with no realistic hope of returning to full strength (e.g., What is the prognosis after a serious stroke?).

One is clearly called by God to some other ministry. All of the usual complex factors have to be borne in mind. Continue reading

10 Misconceptions About the New Testament Canon

By Dr. Michael Kruger:

This series exams some common beliefs out there in the academic (and lay-level) communities that prove to be problematic upon closer examination.

1. The Term “Canon” Can Only Refer to a Fixed, Closed List of Books
2. Nothing in Early Christianity Dictated That There Would be a Canon
3. The New Testament Authors Did Not Think They Were Writing Scripture
4. New Testament Books Were Not Regarded as Scriptural Until Around 200 A.D.
5. Early Christians Disagreed Widely over the Books Which Made It into the Canon
6. In the Early Stages, Apocryphal Books Were as Popular as the Canonical Books
7. Christians Had No Basis to Distinguish Heresy from Orthodoxy Until the Fourth Century
8. Early Christianity was an Oral Religion and Therefore Would Have Resisted Writing Things Down
9. The Canonical Gospels Were Certainly Not Written by the Individuals Named in Their Titles
10. Athanasius’ Festal Letter (367 A.D.) is the First Complete List of New Testament Books

At this link.

“Definite Atonement” Rather Than “Limited Atonement”

Dr. Roger Nicole (December 10, 1915 – December 11, 2010[1]) was a native Swiss Reformed Baptist theologian. He was an associate editor for the New Geneva Study Bible, assisted in the translation of the New International Version, and was a founding member of both the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy and the Evangelical Theological Society, serving as president of the latter in 1956.

The following excerpt is a transcript from a teaching he conducted decades ago entitled “The Five Points of Calvinism”:

Then comes the third point which is sometimes called Limited Atonement. And here I wax warm because I think that is a complete misnomer. The others I am willing to live with. “Limited Atonement” I cannot live with because that is a total misrepresentation of what we mean to say.

The purpose of using that expression is that the atonement is not universal in the sense that Christ died for every member of the race, in the same sense in which He died for those who will be redeemed. Therefore the purpose of the atonement is restricted to the elect and not spread to the universality of mankind. This is what is meant by “Limited”.

But the problem is that anyone who does not hold that Christ will in fact save everybody has a “limited atonement”. Anyone who says there will be some people saved and other people lost, has to say the atonement does not function for the universality of mankind.

Now some of the people limit it in breadth; that is, they say, the Lord Jesus Christ died for the redeemed and He sees to it that the redeemed are therefore saved. So that there is a certain group of mankind, a particular group, which is the special object of the redemptive love and substitutionary work of Jesus Christ and toward this group then, Christ sees to it that His work is effective and brings about their salvation. And while the remainder of mankind may gain some benefits from the work of Christ, they are however, not encompassed in the same way in His design, as were those whom the Father gave Him. This is one way of limiting it, you may limit it in breadth, if I may put it that way.

The other people who say “Christ died for everybody in the same way”, have to recognize that some people for whom Christ died, at the end are lost, so that the death of Christ does not ensure the salvation of those for whom He died. The effect is therefore that they limit the atonement in depth. The atonement is ineffective. It does not secure the salvation of the people for whom it is intended. And so in some way, the will of God and the redemptive love of Jesus Christ are frustrated by the resistance and the wicked will of men who resist Him and do not accept His grace. So that salvation really consists on the work of Christ plus acceptance or non-resistance or some ingredient of one kind or another that some people add. And it is this ingredient which really constitutes the difference between being saved and being lost.

No one who says “at the end there will be some people saved and other people lost” can really in honesty speak of an “Unlimited Atonement”, and therefore I for one am not happy to go under the banner of “Limited Atonement” as if Calvinists and myself were the ones who wickedly emasculate and mutilate the great scope and beauty of the love and redemption of Jesus Christ.

This is not really a question of limit. This is a question of purpose.

And so we ought to talk about “Definite Atonement.” There is a definite purpose of Christ in offering Himself. Substitution that is not a ‘blanket’ substitution; but a substitution that is oriented specifically to the purpose for which He came into this world, which is to save and redeem those whom the Father has given Him.

Another term that is appropriate, although perhaps less precise is the term “Particular Redemption”, for the redemption of Christ is a particular one, which accomplishes what it purposes. The alternative is that Christ redeemed no one in particular.

Now if we change that language I think we put ourselves away from the very unpleasant onus of being the one who seems to be in the business of restricting the scope of the love of Christ.

If I am ready to say my position is that of “Limited Atonement”, my opponent will come and say, “You believe in Limited Atonement but I believe in Unlimited Atonement” – he seems to be the one who exalts the grace of God.

Now use my words and see what happens.

I say, “I believe in Definite Atonement”. What can my opponent say?

He says, “Well I believe in Indefinite Atonement.”

Now if they want to use the language, I have no opportunity to do anything but to protest. But if I have the choice to use a language to represent my position I certainly do not want to put myself at the psychological disadvantage from the start. And the term “Definite Atonement” you will find in very fine writers like John Owen and William Cunningham of Scotland, and Warfield and others, is a much more accurate representation of precisely what the Reformed position holds. Let us abandon that expression “Limited Atonement” which disfigures the Calvinistic doctrine of grace in the work of Christ. I feel rather strongly on that, as you know.

Sola Scriptura (Resources)

This excerpt is taken from John MacArthur’s contribution in Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible.

The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. The most ardent defender of sola Scriptura will concede, for example, that Scripture has little or nothing to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science. This or that “scientific truth,” for example, may or may not be actually true, whether or not it can be supported by Scripture—but Scripture is a “more sure Word,” standing above all other truth in its authority and certainty. It is “more sure,” according to the apostle Peter, than the data we gather firsthand through our senses (2 Peter 1:19). Therefore, Scripture is the highest and supreme authority on any matter on which it speaks.

But there are many important questions on which Scripture is silent. Sola Scriptura makes no claim to the contrary. Nor does sola Scriptura claim that everything Jesus or the apostles ever taught is preserved in Scripture. It only means that everything necessary, everything binding on our consciences, and everything God requires of us is given to us in Scripture (2 Peter 1:3).

Furthermore, we are forbidden to add to or take away from Scripture (cf. Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18-19). To add to it is to lay on people a burden that God Himself does not intend for them to bear (cf. Matt. 23:4).

Scripture is therefore the perfect and only standard of spiritual truth, revealing infallibly all that we must believe in order to be saved and all that we must do in order to glorify God. That—no more, no less—is what sola Scriptura means.

“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.” —Westminster Confession of Faith

Pdf – Scriptura Alone by R. C. Sproul: Introduction and First Chapter (here)

What Do We Mean by Sola Scriptura? – Article by Dr. W. Robert Godfrey (here)

Sola Scriptura in Dialogue – Article by Dr. James White (here)

Video & Audio Resources:

Phil Johnson – Why We Can’t Abandon Sola Scriptura:

Dr. James White – 2 Hours on Sola Scriptura:

Dr. Robert Godfrey: Martin Luther and Sola Scriptura:

Dr. Michael Horton: John Calvin and Sola Scriptura:

A young James White:

Dr. James White – Audio Message from 2017:

Dr. Al Mohler (speaking from Deut. 4):

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